Synopses & Reviews
For decades, French writer, editor, and publisher Roger Grenier has been enticing readers with compact, erudite books that draw elegant connections between the art of living and the work of art. Under Greniers wry gaze, clichés crumble, and offbeat anecdotes build to powerful insights.
With Palace of Books, he invites us to explore the domain of literature, its sweeping vistas and hidden recesses. Engaging such fundamental questions as why people feel the need to write, or what is involved in putting ones self on the page, or how a writer knows shes written her last sentence, Grenier marshals apposite passages from his favorite writers: Chekhov, Baudelaire, Proust, James, Kafka, Mansfield and many others. Those writers mingle companionably with tales from Greniers half-century as an editor and friend to countless legendary figures, including Albert Camus, Romain Gary, Milan Kundera, and Brassai,.
Grenier offers here a series of observations and quotations that feel as spontaneous as good conversation, yet carry the lasting insights of a lifetime of reading and thinking. Palace of Books is rich with pleasures and surprises, the perfect accompaniment to old literary favorites, and the perfect introduction to new ones.
"To anyone as well- and widely-read as Grenier (The Difficulty of Being a Dog), the mind itself is a 'palace of books,' and Grenier opens the door to his in this wide-ranging, impressively erudite, deceptively slender volume. In the tradition of Montaigne's Essays, Grenier thumbs with confident ease through centuries of monumental art and literature as he meditates on crime stories; last words; waiting as the human condition; suicide as a philosophical act; love 'with its secret altars hidden deep within the heart'; and the inscrutable private lives of authors. Flaubert, Faulkner, Conrad, Beckett, and Camus might share the same page or Sartre, Foucault, Barthes, and Descartes nestle in the same line as Grenier probes the questions that captivate him: the function of literature; the character of the short story; and the compulsion to write. While the answers have been offered before authors want to 'show a psychological truth,' fiction 'allows us to seek and to find the truth about people and about the world' but the enjoyment is in the virtuoso movement of Grenier's thought. Kaplan's translation captures the wry humor and elegant poise of prose that, like a fine wine or expensive cigar, should be allowed to linger on the tongue. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Palace of Books is a great pleasure to read. It is disarming, deceptively modest, and so beyond any question of fashion, of trying to seem like the latest thing, that to me it seems wholly new. Greniers learning is vast; and it is all handled with great ease, as a cook might rummage familiarly in his cupboard, pulling down now this jar of spices and now that. Who, now, has the depth and range of literary culture that Grenier does? Who now lives so much in books? And yet people do, or at least they want to. The Web is paradoxically full of them. Young aspiring writers should take these essays as a kind of model, not for their own writing so much as for their own reading, a lesson in how to stock the shelves of the mind."
"Reading Roger Grenier, you feel as if you're joining him in an inviting library, both of you seated in comfortable leather chairs and sipping calvados. He's read all the books in the room--how he has the time, you're not quite sure--and with a gentle and astounding ease, he recites countless lines from myriad texts and pieces them together into playful discussions of such grand topics as love, memory, death, and, naturally, writing. . . Subtle observations fill this slim volume, giving us a glimpse into the mind and life of this most sensitive of readers. While it may not leave you with many profound truths, I dare you not to fall in love."
"A charming series of freeform meditations. . . . An added pleasure of Grenier's essays is that, no matter how much he has read and retained, he writes of literature as an unending pursuit."
As a book editor for five decades and himself a prolific author, Roger Grenier has known some of the twentieth centurys greatest writers, from his mentor Albert Camus to Romain Gary and Jean-Paul Sartre. Here, in Palace of Books, he offers a witty and profound set of essays around the question of literature in the broadest sense of the term. Teeming with anecdote and elegant flashes of insight, the essays reflect on the ways we hold our favorite writers dear, almost like members of the family. Like a modern Montaigne, Grenier wears his vast culture lightly and with a sense of humor, and discusses the craft of writing with disarming modesty. He addresses writers anxieties, such as the perennial Do I Have Anything Left To Say?” while also taking on related themes, like the experience of waiting, be it in the army, before eternity, or in the dentists office. Grenier brings the reader closer to all the writers he evokes, and they are many:, Rousseau, Stendhal, Flaubert, Camus, Proust, Beckett, Barthes, Conrad, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, OFlannery, Tolstoy, and Musil. It is like a wonderful literary party hosted by Roger Grenier and to which we have all been invited.
About the Author
Roger Grenier, an editor at Éditions Gallimard, has published over thirty novels, short stories, and literary essays and is the recipient of numerous prizes, including the Grand Prix de Littéature de l'Académie Française.Alice Kaplan is the author of French Lessons: A Memoir, The Collaborator, The Interpreter, and Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis, and the translator of OK, Joe, The Difficulty of Being a Dog, A Box of Photographs, and Palace of Books. Her books have been twice nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Awards, once for the National Book Award, and she is a winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She holds the John M. Musser chair in French literature at Yale. She lives in Guilford, Connecticut.Alice Kaplan is the author of French Lessons: A Memoir, The Collaborator, The Interpreter, and Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis, and the translator of OK, Joe, The Difficulty of Being a Dog, A Box of Photographs, and Palace of Books. Her books have been twice nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Awards, once for the National Book Award, and she is a winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She holds the John M. Musser chair in French literature at Yale. She lives in Guilford, Connecticut.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Alice Kaplan
“The Land of Poets”
Waiting and Eternity
Writing about Love, Again . . .
A Half Hour at the Dentists
Do I Have Anything Left to Say?
To Be Loved